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How Puma is becoming relevant in basketball again

Sneakers worn by DeMarcus Cousins #0 of the Golden State Warriors during warm up before the game between the Golden State Warriors and the Portland Trail Blazers at ORACLE Arena on November 23, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Puma’s recent push into basketball looks like a winning strategy as the iconic brand re-asserts itself in the incredibly competitive market.

The company’s growth performance is diversified as far as regions and products are concerned. The sportswear company saw growth in China and the Middle East, as well as a double-digit increase in the Americas. Cowen Equity Research cites the Clyde Court and Uproar Charlotte sneaker models as catalysts for Puma’s success as it attempts to take share in basketball market.

To be clear, Puma has a long way to go. According to NPD’s Matt Powell, Puma has less than 1% of the basketball sneaker market share.

Puma’s re-entry into basketball ramped up in the summer of 2018. The company with the cat logo signed 2018 first overall NBA draft pick Deandre Ayton and NBA All-Star DeMarcus Cousins.

Walt "Clyde" Frazier and Deandre Ayton attend the PUMA Hoops HQ kickoff where Walt "Clyde" Frazier signs the first ever life long contract with PUMA on June 18, 2018 in Brooklyn. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for PUMA)

And in a move that harkened back to Puma’s basketball glory days, the company also granted a lifetime contract to its first star NBA star Walt “Clyde” Frazier. Puma signed the New York Knicks All-Star and NBA Champion in 1973. Until then Pumas were seen as track shoes worn by runners.

In the early ‘70s, most NBA players wore Converse or Adidas (ADDYY) which was created Adolf Dassler, the brother of Puma founder Rudolf Dassler. Frazier, one of the more stylish and charismatic players in the game, brought legitimacy to Puma as a basketball shoe when he started wearing the brand.

However, this legitimacy would soon wane. The ‘70s became the ‘80s, a decade when superstar Michael Jordan helped begin Nike’s (NKE) march to becoming the dominant basketball sneaker brand.

A pair of Nike Air Jordan 1s, worn and signed by NBA basketball legend Michael Jordan in his rookie season, is pictured at the "ShoeZeum" in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada September 25, 2012. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Although Puma took decades to reinsert itself into the mainstream of basketball footwear, it seems to be paying off. In 2018, Puma achieved record revenue of $5.2 billion. In Q1 of 2019 the Herzogenaurach, Germany, headquartered company saw a sales increase of 15.3%.

As with all things, it’s uncertain what's in store for Puma's basketball fortunes. But if the brand finds a way to sign more high-profile NBA stars, Puma could continue to make some noise in the space.

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.

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